Volcanic ash from Mount St. Helens blanketed the Mid-Columbia region bringing life in some areas to a standstill and stranding several hundred persons today in the Tri-Cities.
Public transportation ground to a virtual halt with bus service only to the south. Hughes Airwest and Cascade Airlines canceled flights through noon today at the Tri-Cities Airport.
Amtrak was halted, no Burlington Northern trains were moving at Pasco and Greyhound buses destined for northern areas were stranded here.
The volcanic ash also was blamed on one injury accident. Marie Freeman, 35, of 116 W. 16th Place, Kennewick, received a possible rib fracture and internal injuries in a one-car accident Sunday on Highway 240 18 miles west of Richland.
She was listed in serious condition today at Kadlec Hospital. Two passengers received minor injuries in the accident on an ash-covered highway, the patrol said.
The gray powder dusted the entire Tri-Cities area with Kennewick receiving only a skiff but areas west and north getting a half an inch or more.
All highways leading west and north were blockaded and the State Patrol, swamped by calls, asked the public to rely on the news media for announcements of road closures.
However I-84 to Portland is open.
Two Tri--City bands were stranded out of town as were many Tri-City motorists. The Kamiakin High School band was stranded in Spokane and the Hanford High School concert choir and band could not leave Central Washington State University in Ellensburg.
Many Tri-Citians who were traveling to Seattle and other. West Coast points and along Interstate 90 as far. east as Spokane were unable to. return home today because of the! closed roads.
Gwen Malody, with the Red Cross here, estimated about 150 persons were stranded in the Tri-Cities and motel managers said they were; packed Sunday night with travelers who could not go on.
The patrol was escorting 53 cars from Mesa and a shelter in a Connell School had another 150 stranded motorists.
The Mormon Church at Fourth and Union in Kennewick was established as the main Tri-Cities shelter tonight and some stranded motorists were there before noon today.
Federal Aviation. Administration officials at the Pasco tower said the airport is open but only small planes are flying.
Jim Morasch, airport manager, said two or three small planes took off this morning. He said the air is so saturated with ash that it damages the turbine engines on larger aircraft.
At Hanford, 20 percent to 30 percent of the work force at the 1 and 4 nuclear projects did not show today, said Washington Public Power Supply System spokesman R.F. Nowakowski.
Nowakowski said there was no report at No. 2.
Department of Energy officials said only essential personnel were to report to the remote 100 and 200 areas on the Hanford Reservation.
Otherwise, DOE employees and contractor personnel were to report to work as usual.